Will NJ residents get fleeced going into midtown Manhattan?
As a series of hearings on the proposal to create a congestion pricing plan to enter midtown Manhattan continues, there’s no word yet on whether New Jersey leaders will have a seat at the table.
Officials and residents of the Garden State are concerned congestion pricing could result in a "double tolling" scenario because the plan is to charge a fee to drive into Manhattan below 60th Street, in addition to the toll that drivers must pay to enter the city either from the George Washington Bridge, the Lincoln or Holland tunnels.
That could result in an additional $3,000 a year for Garden State residents who drive into Manhattan every day.
Tom Bracken, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, who also serves on the New Jersey Fair Congestion Pricing Alliance, said charging New Jersey residents more to go into midtown, and having that money go solely to improve mass transit in the Big Apple is a terrible idea.
“It is punitive to the commuters, it’s punitive to our state, and I think it’s just something that is unconscionable,” he said.
“I think it would make New Jersey as a home state for people less attractive because now people are going to have to pay more money to leave their home in New Jersey and go into New York," Bracken said.
He noted that scenario “could impact real estate prices and make New Jersey a less desirable place to live, if that were to happen it might impact our state revenues, which could impact our economy.”
He said efforts continue to have the Alliance get a meaningful seat at the table when the hearings are over “to try to find a way to come to an agreement that benefits everybody, not just one side of the equation.”
Bracken said if congestion pricing begins in 2023, which is the current plan, it’s going to result in more commuters using NJ Transit “and they deserve more money because I don’t think they have the capacity to handle any surge of new riders.”
He stressed the solution to this issue is not to impose some new tax on New York commuters who come into New Jersey.
“Retaliation like that maybe is the worst thing we can do. It’s a lose-lose for everybody and it creates animosity, I think nothing beats collaboration,” said Bracken.
He said what’s needed is for everybody to sit down, discuss the situation and work out an equitable plan where everybody benefits, although it’s too soon to spell out what that could mean.
Several additional public hearings are scheduled over the coming months and Bracken said once they are completed, “I think recommendations can be made as to how best to solve the problem and make that equitable.”
The congestion plan, that supporters say can raise $1 billion a year, would subsidize a major New York City subway modernization proposal put forth by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and is also supposed to reduce gridlock in midtown.
Gov. Phil Murphy has indicated he could block a congestion pricing plan that is unfair to Jersey residents by withholding approval of Port Authority meeting minutes, although he has not explained how that would work.
The Port Authority controls the bridges and tunnels into New York from New Jersey.